Wednesday 23 January 2019

Joe Schmidt says Grand Slam fever won't infect Ireland's 'bubble'

Joe Schmidt, left, and Warren Gatland will be very sought-after when they finish with Ireland and Wales
Joe Schmidt, left, and Warren Gatland will be very sought-after when they finish with Ireland and Wales
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt insists no Grand Slam fever will infect Ireland's "bubble" as his side edge ever closer to a Six Nations title decider with England.

A record-equalling 10th successive Test win now puts Ireland just two wins away from a first Grand Slam in nine years, with the last-weekend England clash slated for March 17 at Twickenham.

Asked if the Ireland squad can keep any Grand Slam talk at bay, Schmidt said: "It's a lot easier for us than it is externally because we do live in a bit of a bubble through the championship.

"Every Tuesday the players train then leave and that's when they might be a little more exposed to the hype. Wednesday is a down day, it allows them to freshen up. We try to break the rugby focus into the early and late part of the week. Once we're in those phases it's relatively easy.

"Next week will be trickier because we break up on Tuesday and the players will get a few days off then. In the early part of the week we won't get too excited about what we've done because we've got a few things planned for them.

"You'll see them working hard and rolling their sleeves up at the open session next week."

Sexton carried a stiff back into the Wales clash at the Aviva Stadium and emerged at the other end with a bruised backside. Conor Murray picked up a minor foot problem, but head coach Schmidt insists his Lions halfbacks will be fit to face Scotland in Dublin on March 10.

"Johnny just got a bit of dead glute, so he kind of copped a knee in the backside really," Schmidt said of Sexton. "Again at that stage of the game he could have stayed on and played on. But we've got a lot of confidence in Joey Carbery.

"We want to keep growing the group, and it was good for Joey. We felt he was well enough placed to control that last five minutes. Conor just got his foot trapped and twisted awkwardly, but he's walking without any problems at all. I can imagine it will be a little bit sore. He and Johnny might well miss training on Tuesday but they will have well and truly earned it."

Wales boss Warren Gatland admitted defeat ended any lingering chances of his side chasing the Six Nations title.

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